WBB : Syracuse’s defense holds 2nd opponent under 40 points
With four minutes gone by Sunday’s game, Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman got the attention of his guards, Tasha Harris and Erica Morrow. Hillsman put his hand above his head and let his fingers dangle. The two nodded – they knew it was time to run.
Morrow and Harris converged on the Longwood point guard in a trap that forced the Lancers to call a timeout and figure out a way around the vicious Orange press.
‘That’s why our trap was effective,’ Hillsman said. ‘When we actually got down and played our press the way we should play it.’
Longwood couldn’t find a solution, as Syracuse’s (5-2) defense dominated in a 72-40 victory over the Lancers (2-4) Sunday at Manley Field House in front of 563 fans. The rebound win came four days after the heavily favored Orange was upset by Alaska Anchorage in the finals of the Great Alaska Shootout.
The suffocating Orange defense ransacked Longwood’s front court while coming away with 10 steals and forcing 22 turnovers en route to its second-best defensive performance of the season.
‘Well you know it was big because we wanted to hold them under 40 points,’ Hillsman said. ‘I thought we did a very good job on defense of getting out on the shooters.’
The Orange was aided by a dismal night from the field for Longwood, which shot 27.6 percent – 13.6 percent from 3-point range and 50 percent from the free-throw line. Syracuse shot nearly 50 percent from the field, dominating in all major statistical categories.
Longwood point guard Sierra Fletcher had her passing lanes completely cut off by the Orange front court. She struggled to work the ball around the perimeter, making it difficult to combat the Orange’s two-three zone with outside shooting.
‘It was defense,’ senior forward Chandrea Jones said. ‘Defense wins games. You get stops and the other doesn’t score, that’s how you get the ball.’
When the Lancers had the ball down low, they were forced to yield to junior forwards Juanita Ward and Nicole Michael, along with Jones. They combined for 21 of the team’s 32 defensive rebounds while shutting out the undersized Longwood backcourt.
Early in the first half, Ward jumped up and stuffed a Kayla Loughner 3-point attempt, grabbed the loose ball, and charged down the court to draw a foul. The next possession down, Ward – who led the Orange in the first half with nine points – followed a shot off the rim and pulled down a rebound, finding a wide-open Tyler Ash for a 3-pointer.
The second half belonged to Michael. In her first game back following a serious head injury in the final minutes of a 78-71 loss to No. 19 Ohio State, Michael led the team with 14 points.
‘It was awesome (having her back),’ Hillsman said. ‘That’s what we missed. We missed her athleticism and her length. She just does so many things. She’s very disruptive when she’s on the floor.’
Michael put her athleticism on full display following an Orange timeout. The team came out flanked in a full press. After the Lancers broke the Syracuse defense down, Lindsey Martin was wide open from long range. But Michael, sprinting from her post at half-court, jumped in the air and stuffed Martin’s attempt, swatting the ball out of play.
‘It feels great (to be back),’ Michael said. ‘I was excited, I was ready to go, it is great to be back.’
Sunday was a much-needed victory for the Orange after it was upset by Division II opponent Alaska Anchorage. After the game, Hillsman came under fire for accusing the officials of cheating.
Said Michael: ‘It was just a big win for us to get back and get ourselves together to how we were as a team playing team ball, and playing unselfish and just playing hard.’
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